This First & Last feature turns to events at the wrong end of the table as we reflect on campaigns that do not quite go according to plan.

Our First Relegation - 1974

From the formation of the club in 1908 until 1973 it was not possible for St Albans City to be relegated. During that period, we played in single-Division leagues where a club could fail to be re-elected if finishing bottom, but automatic relegation was out of the question. All that changed in 1973/74 when the Isthmian League gained an extra Division by swallowing up a majority of the Athenian League’s clubs. Relegation was now in the offing and we wasted no time in giving it a go.

15 1973 74

The 1972/73 season had been a disaster, but City made optimistic noises about our fortunes improving under former Barnet manager Tommy Coleman who had been brought in towards the end of the previous season to replace Mickey Hunter. Coleman had some interesting characters under his command.

The City captain was the experienced Dave Hogwood, best known for his long association with Hendon where he collected seven England Amateur international caps. New to the team was the colourful Barry Fry . His playing career ended in November after 23 games for the Saints and just two wins. At the heart of the defence was Dennis Roach, a football agent who had Trevor Francis and Johann Cruyff as his most famous client. In goal was the former long-serving Barnet custodian Wilf Woodend, while the most impressive player to survive the entire season was midfielder John Field.

The league season kicked off with a goal from former Hitchin Town striker Colin White seeing off Corinthian Casuals at Clarence Park . Thanks to an experiment that was the brainchild of Jimmy Hill, wins in the now sponsored Rothman Isthmian League would be rewarded with three points rather than the traditional two. Our second three-point haul did not arrive for another six matches, but that was rapid given that we then went 25 league games without a win – three draws and 22 defeats including 14 in succession.

Added to the phenomenal run of league defeats we also bowed out of the F.A. Cup in the 1st Qualifying Round (4-1 at Dartford’s old Watling Street ground) and the Amateur Cup to Hampshire League side Brockenhurst. We at least have the honour of having played in front of what remains as Brockenhurst’s record crowd of 1,104. The London Senior and Mithras Cup also saw us fail to get past the first hurdle.

Needless to say, Coleman did not see the season out and after 28 defeats from 36 games he was replaced by the Hoddesdon Town manager and former Romford player Tommy Barnett. The chain-smoking, wavy-haired, 37-year-old Barnett was on a hiding to nothing, yet proved most popular during his time at Clarence Park . Within two weeks he had brought in eight players as arresting our slide towards relegation became the priority. The most successful of Barnett’s new faces was striker Nick O’Donoghue who went on to score 74 times in 160 games for the club.

O’Donoghue scored twice on his debut as City won 3-1 at Berkhamsted in the Herts Senior Cup but we were kicked out of the competition for fielding players who had not been signed in time to meet the 28-day qualification period. League goals were harder to come by for Nick with him scoring just once in 14 Isthmian League games before the end of the season.

Barnett even threw himself into the fray with his first two appearances coinciding with a 2-1 win away to Corinthian Casuals and a 1-0 victory over Enfield at Southbury Road. The losing run was over with Bob Clements’ winning goal against his former club Enfield moving City to within two points of Clapton who sat just above the relegation places. The next two games, at home to Barking and away to Bromley, were drawn but Walton and Hersham ended the run with a comfortable 3-0 win at Stompond Lane. Hope of avoiding the drop was fading fast and our relegation to the Isthmian League Division Two was confirmed at Kingfield where Woking won 2-0 on 19th April.

Tommy Barnett remained in charge for the start of the following season and was steering the side towards a respectable position when he stood down due to business commitments in February 1975. Returning to the hot seat was Sid Prosser for a second spell with the Saints.

Team photo (16th February 1974): Ian Wolstenholme, Ivan Johnson, Barry Hewitt, John Field, Tony Gough, Nick O’Donoghue. Front row: Mel Bevans, Chris Duggan, Dave Hogwood, Keny Ward, Bob Clements.

Our Last Relegation - 2011

Our first stint as members of the Football Conference came to an end after seven years with relegation to the Premier Division of the Southern League at the end of the 2010-11 season. Our time in the Conference had been a mixture of exhilarating – Colin Lippiatt’s promotion winning side of 2006 – to humiliation – a fine from the Football Association and ten-point deduction for financial irregularities in 2008/09.

Steve Castle was in his second stint as St Albans City manager and had done well to retain much of the previous season’s squad in the face of testing times for the club off the pitch under chairman John Gibson. City no longer had the support of Gibson’s construction company William Verry following their collapse with debts around the £20m mark.


The season got off to a most unusual start with all of the opening five league games being drawn. Woking ended the run with a 1-0 win at Clarence Park . Our first win arrived in the ninth game when a Jean-Michel Sigere goal saw off Havant & Waterlooville at the Park. Progress was enjoyed in the F.A. Cup with Beckenham Town and Kingstonian removed before we were comfortably despatched 4-0 by Luton Town at Kenilworth Road with Amari Morgan-Smith bagging a hat-trick.

Eight days before the Luton match Lippiatt passed away at the age of 68. City players Paul Bastock , Lee Clark and Nick Roddis were three of the pall bearers. One day after the Luton game, City’s long serving treasurer Bill Nicholson also passed away, aged 85.

The win over Havant was our only success in the first 16 league games and a 3-1 ( Adam Everitt ) defeat at Lewes in mid-November sent us into the relegation zone. Three days before the Lewes game, Hatfield Town sauntered to a 4-1 win at Clarence Park in the Herts Senior Cup, the attendance was just 40. After defeating Staines Town in the F.A. Trophy we bowed out of the competition with a comprehensive 3-0 reversal at Dorchester Town.

Snow and frost caused five postponements from the end of November through to the end of the year, also postponed was an F.A. Hearing at Wembley into City’s financial affairs.

15 Inih Effiong scores at BW

Striker Inih Effiong began the New Year in fine form with his four goals in as many games helping City to wins over Borham Wood, Maidenhead United and Basingstoke Town, and a draw with Bromley. The 3-0 win at Boreham Wood on New Year’s Day sent Ian Allinson’s side to the foot of the table. Above: Inih Effiong opens the scoring at Broughinge Road.

We were now out of the relegation zone but a run of six games without a goal condemned us to being bottom of the pile. Six successive defeats cemented our position and all this was being played out with the club in turmoil off the pitch. The players wages, and those of the secretary, for December had not been paid.

15 2011 FA Hearing result

 The twice postponed hearing with the F.A. took place on 4th February and our relegation was all but confirmed when our financial misdemeanours under Gibson led to a deduction of ten points and a fine of £7,500 (plus v.a.t., and £2,000 costs). Castle learnt of our fate from a call from the Non-League Paper, the City chairman did not contact him until the following day. Castle’s hopes of staving off relegation suffered further blows as experienced players Paul Bastock , Ben Martin and James Fisher all quit the club.

City still had 19 league games to play, three of which yielded victory. During one of them, away to Dorchester, Effiong scored the Saints first hat-trick for two years. With 15 goals, Inih was comfortably our top goal scorer but the Player of the Year award went to the combative Adam Everitt .

Relegation, the fourth in our history, was confirmed on 9th April with a 4-0 defeat at Stonebridge Road against promotion seeking Ebbsfleet United. We collected four points from our two remaining home games but the season was rounded off with a 4-1 defeat to Dover Athletic at Crabble. Full back Peter Smith , with an exquisite free kick, scored our final goal of the season. In making 44 appearances, he was also our most used player during the campaign.